Sunday, November 06, 2011

Classic Cookbook Challenge

Cooking for TwoOver the past few years, I have picked up quite a few vintage cookbooks. I love looking through them, especially the pictures and illustrations. My friend Karen and I found quite a few Better Homes and Garden cookbooks from the 60's the other day at a thrift shop. Since we are both broke, we each only bought one. It took us forever to only choose those two. One that got away that we both wanted was Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Cookbook, hint hint.
The reason I mention this is because later that evening, I started a new project called 365project. (I’ve created a permanent link on the sidebar to the left.) It’s a site where you take one picture a day and upload it. So I thought I would start by having my first picture be of a few of my most recent cookbook acquisitions.  Then that got me to thinking. Besides challenging myself to take a picture every day for a year, how about if I created a cooking challenge stemming from my new, old cookbooks? And what if I managed to get some more in the process? Hence Celine’s Classic Cookbook Challenge was born!
Here’s what I am doing:
Each month for the next twelve months, I am going to make one recipe from a different “vintage” cookbook. The cookbooks have to be printed between the 1950's and the 1970's.  If someone wants to donate a cookbook to me, then they can chose the recipe that I will make from it. (So here’s you chance to get rid of a cookbook cluttering up your house or pick up one at a garage sale. You can have me make something ridiculous, if you want!)
To start off this challenge, I let Karen pick out a recipe (any bhg cooking for two backrecipe she wanted – I did not bhg cooking for two frontlook at the book before she picked something) out of the book she just purchased, Better Homes and Gardens Cooking for Two, first printing – 1968.

She picked a recipe called Shrimp Curry Luncheon. Unfortunately, it does not have a picture but I did scan the recipe. (You can click on picture to “bigify.”)
shrimp curry luncheon
I looked through the book and decided to make a dessert that does have an accompanying  picture, Mint Patty Alaskas. Ever since I found out Ted Baxter’s favorite dessert was the Baked Alaska, I’ve always been meaning to make one. (You know Ted, the newscaster from WJM!) Neither Karen nor I like peppermint candies so I decided to eliminate them. Then after an exhaustive internet and grocery store search for chocolate-coated ice cream patties (or any ice cream patties – for gosh sakes – what the heck are they??), I decide to make the recipe more like a traditional Baked Alaska.  I also decided that I should add a classic wedge salad and Karen whole-heartedly agreed.baked alaska recipe
hints on wineLastly, the book had a page that gave me “Hints on Wine” so Karen gave me the appropriate white wine which I chilled for two hours in the fridge as directed.
I started the menu by making the insides of the Baked Alaskas. I used Black Raspberry Dark Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream instead of the “chocolate-coated peppermint ice cream patties.” I let the ice cream thaw on the counter for 30 minutes or so. Then I spooned some into each sponge cake to resemble a small mound, like I think I’ve seen done for traditional Baked Alaskas.
baked alaska prep

I then put the whole Pyrex dish in the freezer. Oops! After I rearranged the freezer, I then put the whole Pyrex dish in the freezer.oopsNext I got started on the Shrimp Curry Luncheon. What kind of name is that for a recipe anyway? It sounds like an event not a dish. Wait, did I just answer my own question?shrimp curry luncheopn ingredients
So the first step is to cut avocado slices and brush with lime juice. Odd. I was very impressed with my avocado slicing abilities but then I just squeezed some lime juice on them and totally ignored the “brush” part of the instructions. These lime juice-covered-slices are supposed to be in a warm oven for 5 to 10 minutes, which leads me to believe that the author assumes that one can complete the next steps in that amount of time. HA! If there is a work time given in a recipe, then I have to at LEAST TRIPLE it to find my actual time. A recipe boasts that it only takes 15 minutes to make? Then I can’t make it in under 45 minutes. That’s just how I roll folks. Anyway, back to my poor avocado slices. Once I realized that they were definitely going to be in the oven more that the required 5 – 10 minutes, I lowered the temp from 300 to 250. Not sure if that helped. They tasted fine but looked like this when they came out of the oven.avocado slices out of oven
On to the next steps, which take place on the stove in my “new” old Corning Ware “Spice of Life” skillet. So exciting!!!! One thing I definitely learned is that having the ingredients prepped before you start cooking would probably help with the time issues I was having. Chop, chop, chop. (Plus, I still had to chop an egg and wedges for my salad.) bubbling
Initially, the stove portion of the recipe did not look that good. And eeks!, what a lot of butter. Julia would be proud!
I think this picture looks pretty cool because if you really look, you can see the steam coming from the pan…
Shrimp Curry Lucheon assemblytable
As a disclaimer, I should mention that Karen helped assemble the wedge salad and opened the wine. I figured since recipes were not part of my “challenge” that this would be okay. I had chopping to do People!
I thought the meal was very pretty and to me, it also looked very “vintage.” I felt like I was transported back to the Mad Men era. Karen and I both liked the recipes very much. In fact, I would make it again and think it would be perfect for a ladies luncheon or a bridge game (if I remotely knew how to play bridge!) I am not a fan of curry but the curry really worked here. It wasn’t overpowering yet kept the sauce, which has lots of butter and sour cream, from being too rich. The avocado added to the overall creamy-ness of the dish. The English muffin soaked up the sauce but didn’t become soggy. And there was just enough shrimp that you got some shrimp in every other bite or so but it wasn’t fishy tasting. Really this recipe was much yummier than I would have ever imagined just by reading it. Even though it wasn’t a huge volume of food, we were both very full after eating it.
And yes, we were full but we decided that I should continue on with dessert. I mean how can anyone be too full for dessert? I took out my divided Pyrex dish from my rearranged freezer and moved the two Alaska insides to another Pyrex dish that was room temperature. I would hate to shatter my beloved Pyrex by putting her in the oven after being frozen!!ready for the oven
At this point, I was following the recipe again. Karen and I were surprised how easy the meringue was to make. And it seemed like the recipe made a LOT of it. I just blopped it over each ice cream/sponge cake mound with a spoon then used a spatula to try and make some peaks. whipping and browning
It took three minute in the oven for them to look divine. Karen had the great idea to shave some dark chocolate on top. And then we dug in. This dessert is a winner! I will totally make it again. The ice cream I picked was perfect. The flavor combinations of the raspberry, dark chocolate, sponge cake and meringue is delicious. And to have the ice cream be cold is refreshing but it was never so cold that you had to worry about brain freeze. The sponge cake and even the fruity ice cream flavor that I picked out, kept  the meringue from feeling too sweet. I think the dessert looked very elegant (or elegante  as this cookbook likes to call recipes.) Maybe Ted Baxter wasn’t so dumb after all!fini baked alaska
So I wonder what my Classic Cookbook Challenge will be for December???


Arlene C said...

I love this - tres Julie/Julia

Vagabonde said...

Now I am hungry – I wish you had cooked like that when you were home in Georgia…..sigh

livininlb said...

Arlene - some of these cookbooks are so not Julia Child!
Vagabonde - I'll cook for you soon. How about some fondue?